That Blessed Hope
January 11th, 1959 @ 7:30 PM
THAT BLESSED HOPE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1-11-59 7:30 p.m.
Let us turn now in our Bible to the Book of Titus, the second chapter, and we shall all of us together begin reading at the ninth verse and read to the end of the chapter. Paul’s letter to Titus, almost toward the end of your Bible; the epistle of Paul the apostle to Titus, chapter 2, and we begin reading at the ninth verse. And if your neighbor did not bring his Bible, share your Bible with him. And all of us read it together, Titus 2, beginning at the ninth verse. All right, together:
Exhort servants to be obedient unto their own masters, and to please them well in all things; not answering again;
Not purloining, but showing all good fidelity; that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things.
For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,
Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;
Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ;
Who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee.
In our preaching through the Bible – and this is now beyond thirteen years that this pastor has been going through the Word of God, preaching from the Scriptures – in our last service, we closed at the tenth verse, "That they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior" [Titus 2:10]. And the title of the message was Adorning the Doctrine of God our Savior. Tonight we begin at the eleventh verse; and the title of the message is the grace of God that brings to us That Blessed Hope. Titus 2:11-13:
For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,
Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present age;
Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ.
He begins this incomparable passage with the words, "For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared unto all men" [Titus 2:11], the grace of God; the unmerited, undeserved, full-orbed, free, mercy and blessing and favor of God, that no man could buy, no man could merit, no man could earn, no man could deserve. And that full-orbed, unmerited love, and mercy, and pardon, and grace of God has been manifested to us in and through God’s Son, the Lord Jesus Christ [John 1:14-17]. Twice here in this passage Paul uses a Greek word, epiphainō, epiphainō, which in our language we translate, we transliterate, "an epiphany"; and "epiphany" is a manifestation, an appearance of God. And the grace of God that hath appeared in an epiphany to all men is in the person and in the character of our Lord Jesus Christ.
For the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us; and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. And of His fullness have all we received, and grace for grace, grace upon grace, grace beyond grace. For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.
Grace was in His lips, in every word that He spake, of loving compassion and tender sympathy. Grace was the essence of all that He did: bringing sight to the blind [Matthew 9:27-31; Luke 18:35-43], speech to the dumb [Matthew 9:32-33], hearing to the deaf [Mark 7:32-35], making the lame to leap like the hart [Isaiah 35:5-6; Mark 2:3-12], cleansing the leper [Mark 1:40-42], speaking the word that raised the dead [John 11:43-44]. And grace was the motivating influence, factor, back of His atoning death [Ephesians 2:8]. Love to man and for man, honoring the government and law of God, His death was not accidental or fortuitous or incidental or merely dramatic; His death was integral, constitutional, in the sublime and infinite purposes of Almighty God [John 3:16; Romans 5:8; 1 John 4:9]. And our Father receives the death of Christ in our stead, for us [2 Corinthians 5:21]; and for Jesus’ sake, unmerited, undeserved on our part, we receive the full pardon of our sins [Ephesians 4:32]. All of it a gift of God [Ephesians 2:8], like all other of God’s gifts: like the sunlight that floods the earth with light and glory, like the circumambient air that we breathe, we receive the pardon and love and mercy of God as we do all other of God’s gifts; we just take them. There is no man who is able to buy the gold of God’s sunshine, or the silver of His starlight and moonlight, or the air encompassing us round about. It is given to us in the grace and mercy and pardon of God. That is why God is silent before the awful waging depravity of man: God waits in His mercy and in His love for the man recalcitrant and iniquitous to turn and to believe and to be saved [2 Peter 3:8-9].
And the grace of God, the pardon, and love, and mercy of God that brought to us our salvation in Christ, taught us also how to live: "Teaching us that denying ungodliness, we should live righteously in this present world" [Titus 2:12]. And then finally, that wonderful, marvelous, incomparable grace of God brought to the Christian [1 Peter 1:13], what the Spirit expressly calls "that blessed hope" [Titus 2:13]. Without hope the steps of the Christian drag; his feet fall behind. His hands are nerveless by his side. If all there is, is incense and in time, the fight of the Christian is lost before he wins it, before he fights it, before he begins it; but God in heaven in His grace, has brought to the Christian what He calls "that blessed hope," the glorious epiphany, the great glorious final appearing of the great God and Savior Jesus Christ [Titus 2:13]. It is called "the blessed hope" [Titus 2:13] because it signals the final and forever defeat of evil. The whole creation with us has suffered in the bondage of sin [Romans 8:18-23]. And the fight and the war against sin has been age long and endless. And mankind, unless it has an ultimate deliverance and victory over sin, shall live in death and in night forever and forever.
There have been many highways by which the story of man has sought to find and to enter upon moral improvement. And all alike have ended in disaster, in defeat, and in despair. The philosophies of antiquity, all of them were sterile and barren. The academies of Greece ended in a depraved and degraded life; and no less so the vestal virgins of Rome for the mass of the matrons. Religion in the history of mankind has without exception been disappointing and frustrating. There is not an author today that could describe accurately the religious practices of Astarte and Ashtoreth, that could describe what took place in the shrines of Venus and Adonis and Diana, who if you were to write them would find the public United States mails barred to the sending of his manuscript. They lie untranslated in the filth of their own dead language and literature.
And when one could look forward to the reign of the church – we call the reign of the church the Dark Ages of humanity – and when we rise to our present day and our present generation, the most driving, and dynamic, and merciless, and cruel of all of the forces that have ever raised over the face of God’s earth is the merciless and cruel and savage face of atheistic communism. Our world today is no less plunged into that same human depravity that our ancestors knew in the Middle Ages, in the Dark Ages, in the ancient ages of antiquity, and as far back as the records of humanity can be unearthed.
And that tarred brush that has smeared the face of the ancient day, that plunged into darkness the Middle Ages, has also darkened our life, our culture, and our civilization in the beloved homeland of America. Any man who would say that America is a Christian nation needs but to look at it. We are somewhat a people dedicated to freedom; but not to God, and least of all to Jesus Christ. When I was a boy, I can remember vividly, poignantly, almost all America laughing at that fundamentalist William Jennings Bryan and applauding the great hero of the new age and the new day and the enlightened hour, Clarence Darrow. That thing stung and burned in my heart and does to this day. This is the word of Clarence Darrow, the great agnostic:
I certainly have no encouragement for the young bloods that are just starting out looking for jobs. The sooner they jump out of the windows, the sooner they will find peace. The only sort of peace there is in this globe: it is a pretty silly world any way you look at it.
And he spoke the modern mind of modern America!
General Smuts, until these late years the prime minister of South Africa, speaking now as president, then as president of the British Association for the Advancement of Science:
This is our day and this is our generation. A war unlike any conflict in the past is near at hand. In the next great war, science will like some angry outraged deity go forward to destroy mankind itself. It will be fought with new and unheard of chemical and biological weapons. It will cover the fair land and the great cities with poison and disease. It will saturate vast areas with a deadly atmosphere.
May I read one other? A characterization of this modern age and of all ages through which mankind has ever toiled in its battle against depravity: Rafael Sabatini, the great and illustrious historian of Italy, in his preface to his biographical work Historical Nights wrote, listen: "There is no new thing. Isaac Disraeli, commenting on it one hundred years ago, said," then he quotes from Isaac Disraeli: "When one nation is at war with another, there is no doubt that the two governments connive at and often encourage the most atrocious libels on each other, to madden the people to contribute cheerfully to the cost of the war," end quote from Disraeli. Then Sabatini continues: "And Disraeli traces the practice back into the myths of antiquity. As it is now, as it was in the days of Isaac Disraeli, so it has always been; for in man’s moral outlook, no material change is discernable in historic times."
May I read it again? "For in man’s moral outlook, no material change is discernable in historic times." This is the world that was offered at the feet of Christ by the prince of the power of the air [Ephesians 2:2]. "Fall down and worship me, and it is Yours." And Christ denied it, and Christ refused it! [Matthew 4:8-10]. This age, this world, this time, this dispensation is one of evil and of darkness and depravity. Men study war by day and night. Men give themselves to learning the practices of destruction and annihilation. Shall it continue forever? Is there not any change? Is there not any hope? Is there not any better tomorrow? Does no horizon ever open upon a better day? Paul says:
For the grace of God that bringeth salvation unto all men hath brought to us this: a blessed hope, the final deliverance of this world from the bondage of iniquity, and our deliverance in the glorious light of the liberty of the sons of God at the appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ, at the interposition of God in human time and in human history.
That blessed hope.
It is called "that blessed hope" not only because it signals our ultimate and final victory over evil, but it is called "that blessed hope" because it brings our ultimate and complete triumph over death and the grave [1 Corinthians 15:55-57]. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death [1 Corinthians 15:26]. Three times, in the record of Jesus in the Gospels, it is said that He raised the dead. He raised the little maid, the daughter of Jairus [Luke 8:41-42, -55]. He raised the son of the weeping widow of Nain [Luke 7:11-15]. And He raised Lazarus, four days corrupting [John 11:39-44]. And in each time and in each instance, each one was raised at the coming of Jesus Christ. They laughed Him to scorn when He came into the upper room where they had laid the little maid away [Luke 8:53]. While they were weeping, going through the streets of Nain to bury the dead [Titus 2:13], He stopped the procession and gave back to his mother, widowed, her only son [Luke 7:11-15]. And though He tarried as He tarries today, He came after four days and to corrupting Lazarus spoke the words of life and immortality that raised Lazarus from the dead [John 11:17-44]. If Christ does not come, if there is no glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ, there is no resurrection from the dead. When they bury us in the heart of the earth, the clods fall fast and hard upon us who are hopelessly and forever dead. And our victory over death is only partial: when we become disembodied and naked spirits with God in heaven; but in the earth our bodies are corrupting, a part of the windblown dust of the world. Yea and the victory of our Lord Jesus Christ is only partial: He lives in heaven in a glorified and immortalized, a resurrected body; but His saints around Him are naked and disembodied spirits. And His own glorious body but emphasizes the partial victory that He won in the earth. For the devil is stronger than God, and Satan has triumphed over the saints of the Almighty: we still lie bound in the prison house of death and of the grave. And Satan has cut the victory of Christ in two, and divided equal honors with the Almighty God. He is raised, He is immortalized, He is an infinite and transfigured Man; but His saints lie corrupting in the dust of the ground and in the heart of the earth. If He is not able to raise the dead, and if the dead are not raised, every mound fresh dug and every grave in the earth cry unto heaven, "He is not able. He is not able. He is not able."
"But now is Christ risen from the dead . . . As in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive . . . Christ, the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at His coming" [1 Corinthians 15:20-23]. "I am He that was dead, and am alive forevermore; and I, I have the keys," not Satan, not the devil, the stronger is Christ our God; "I have the keys of Death and of the Grave" [Revelation 1:18]. And in the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ [Titus 2:13], there will be the full redemption of the purchased possession [Titus 2:14]. "Now," says Paul, "is our salvation nearer than when we believed; the day is far spent, the night is far spent, the day is at hand" [Romans 13:11-12]. That salvation refers to our bodies. We are regenerated when we believe [Titus 3:4-7]; "Now is our salvation nearer than when we believed" [Romans 13:11], a man is resurrected in his soul, born again, regenerated in his life, when he believes on Jesus Christ; that salvation Paul is speaking of that is in the future lies in the resurrection of our bodies [1 Thessalonians 4:14-17]. Jesus died for the whole possession [1 Corinthians 15:3; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 10:5-14], the soul on the inside of us and the body in which that soul abides. And we all shall be changed, and we all shall be resurrected, and we all shall live again in His sight [1 Corinthians 15:51-57].
In Thessalonica, while they were looking up to the Lord, some of their sainted members died. And they sent to the apostle Paul, "What of these who have died? Is this the best that God can do, to bury in the heart of the earth His sainted dead, and their spirits disappear? Is that what God can do? Is that the victory of the Almighty?" [1 Thessalonians 4:13]. And the apostle Paul wrote back:
This we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we who abide and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not precede them that are asleep.
For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God; and these who have died shall be raised first.
They shall look upon the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds in the air.
[1 Thessalonians 4:15-17]
Behold, I show you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall all be changed. This mortality must put on immortality, and this corruptible must put on incorruption.
And when this mortality and corruption shall have put on immortality and incorruption, then shall be brought to pass the thing that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.
At the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ.
[1 Corinthians 15:51-54; Titus 2:13]
It is called "that blessed hope" not only because of our final triumph over the bondage of this world [Romans 8:21]; it is called "that blessed hope" not only because of our glorious victory over that final enemy death, we shall live again in His sight [1 Corinthians 15:55-57]; it is called "that blessed hope" because it signalizes our appearing together before the Lord [Titus 2:13]. "This I say unto you by the coming of the Lord, and by our gathering together unto Him" [2 Thessalonians 2:1]. There shall be some there whom I have won to Christ. There shall be some there who’ve heard the word of this preacher and turned again and believed. There shall be some there for whom you have prayed, whom you have loved, over whom your spirit has made brooding intercession. There shall be some there that we have known and loved and lost for a while. We all shall be there who in faith have looked in trust and in the forgiveness of our sins to Jesus Christ our Lord [Isaiah 45:22; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17]. All of us shall be there, by our gathering together unto Him on the plains of glory and of life.
Oh, joy! Oh, delight! should we go without dying,
No sickness, no sadness, no sorrow and no crying.
Caught up through the clouds with our Lord into glory,
When Jesus receives "His own."
["Christ Returneth"; H. L. Turner]
That blessed hope: the gathering together of God’s people unto Him [2 Thessalonians 2:1]. He calls it "that blessed hope" because it is the triumphant personal epiphany and appearing of God our Savior Jesus Christ [Titus 2:13].
There He comes on clouds descending with ten thousand times ten thousands of His angels and all of His redeemed people [Jude 1:14]. There He is and every eye shall see Him [Revelation 1:7]. Christ who is our life shall appear in glory, and we shall appear with Him [1 John 3:2]. He is coming to be the God and the King of all creation. "The government shall rest upon His shoulder, and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace" [Isaiah 9:6]. And as He reigns upon His throne, His queen, His bride, the church, His redeemed, you, shall reign by His side [Revelation 5:9-10], that blessed hope, the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ [Titus 2:13].
Charles Wesley, in one of his beautiful hymns wrote these words:
What a blessed hope is ours!
While here on earth we stay,
We more than taste the heavenly powers,
And antedate that day:
We feel the resurrection near,
Our life in Christ concealed,
And with His glorious presence here
Our earthly vessels filled.
Lo! He comes with clouds descending,
Once for favored sinners slain;
Thousand times ten thousand saints attending,
Swell the triumph of His train:
Hallelujah! God appears on earth to reign.
["The Hope of Heaven"; Charles Wesley]
That blessed hope: the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ [Titus 2:13].
May I speak briefly of one other word in the text? "Looking for," prosdechomai, "looking for," expecting, waiting, watching, praying, hoping, "looking for the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ" [Titus 2:13]. If it is a doctrine, we shall soon lose it. If it is a doctrine, we shall soon start debating about it. If it is just a doctrine, we shall start dividing over it. If it is just a mere doctrine, it shall soon become a matter of contention among us. It’s not a doctrine; it’s never called a doctrine, it’s never described as a doctrine. It’s called "that blessed hope," that blessed hope [Titus 2:13]. I don’t think it ought to be debated about. I don’t think it ought to be placed in a doctrinal category. I do not think it ought to be something of divisiveness and contention among us. I think it ought to be as the Book describes it: a lifting up of our faces, "Our redemption draweth nigh" [Luke 21:28]. Laid in the dust of the ground, slain by that last enemy death [1 Corinthians 15:26], but beyond the tears, and the sorrow, and the bereavement, and the separation, there the final incomparably glorious victory of the great God and our Savior [1 Corinthians 15:55-57], the blessed hope [Titus 2:13]: to lift up our hearts, to lift up our faces, to see the sunrise of a new and an upper and a better world [Hebrews 11:40].
When I was in Boston, preaching last summer at the Tremont Temple Church, I said to some of the people there, "I understand the Clarendon Street Baptist Church is just over the way from here. Would somebody take me there?" And they were graciously acquiescent, and I visited the Clarendon Street Baptist Church. The reason I wanted to go was because for so many years that incomparable Baptist preacher, that pristine author, that glorious sainted child of God, A. J. Garden, was its pastor and its undershepherd. And A. J. Garden one time told this: he was busy, busy, busy, as any city pastor is, and was very seldom at home. But on a summer, he rented a cottage on Cape Cod and said to the children and to their mother, "We’re going to the cottage, and for several weeks we’re going to stay there, all of us, just we, together." So they got on the train, went to the cottage on Cape Cod. The children were glad and happy, and the family was together for a while. And no sooner had they arrived than Dr. Garden received a telegram: he must return immediately to Boston. So the next day, he got on the train, and when he said, "Goodbye," to the children who were broken-hearted, he said, "I’ll be back. I’ll be back. I’ll be back soon. This will not take long." And away he sped. So the children arose early the next morning to meet the first train back from Boston, washed and dressed, with eager faces; went down to the station, and there wasn’t any A. J. Garden. And he didn’t come that afternoon. And he didn’t come on the next train. And he didn’t come the next day. And he didn’t come the next day. It was not until Saturday morning that A. J. Garden was able to return. And when he stepped off the train, there were those children with bright and eager faces; and in their love for their father nearly ate him up. And when they quieted down so the mother could say a word, she said to Dr. Garden, she said: "This week has been a miracle. Those children have been so eager for you to come, and they’ve been so desirous to see you, that they have gotten up early every morning and have dressed, and washed, and gone down to the railroad station looking for you. And when you didn’t come in the morning train, they went back to meet the evening train. And they have done it every day, looking, waiting, anxiously, expecting you."
That’s not a doctrine! That’s not a contention! That’s not a divisiveness! My soul and my life, that’s a hope, that’s a gladness, that’s a victory, that’s a prayer, that’s a looking for! God’s children ought to live like that. Not scared to death, not frightened, not in despondency or in despair: lift up your face, lift up your eyes, that blessed hope [Luke 21:28; Titus 2:13].
May I close with one of the prettiest sentiments I ever read? It’s a poem by Barbara MacAndrew. Listen to it, and see if you can’t catch its feeling:
So, I am watching quietly
Whenever the sun shines brightly,
I rise and say:
"Surely it is the shining of His face!"
And look unto the gates of His high place
Beyond the sea;
For I know He is coming shortly
To summon me
And when a shadow falls across the window
Of my room,
Where I am working at my appointed task,
I lift my head to watch the door, and ask
If He is come;
And the angel answers sweetly
In my home:
"Only a few more shadows,
And He will come."
["Coming"; Barbara McAndrew]
Do you see that sentiment? "When the sun shines brightly, it’s the shining of His face; and I look beyond the great high place, my summons comes. No, then it’s at twilight, and the shadows fall across my window, where I am working. Only a few more shadows and He will come." In the morning to rise in the hope of Christ, and to lie down in the shadows of the night; and some day, in the darkness of the grave, waiting, looking, expecting Him: that blessed hope [Titus 2:13].
Oh, may the Lord bless it to our hearts and to all of us who share together this pilgrimage in this world of bondage and age and death, looking to that triumphant time when we shall live forever in His sight [Revelation 22:3-5].
While we sing our hymn tonight, somebody you in this balcony round, somebody you on this lower floor, while we make this appeal, would you come and stand by me? Somebody who’ll give his life in trust to Jesus tonight, "Here I am, pastor." As Howard Butt said this morning, "I give you my hand, my right hand for God." A family you to come into the fellowship of the church, down that stairwell at the back, or here at the front if you’re in the balcony, and on this lower floor, into the aisle and down here to the front, "Pastor, tonight, tonight I decide for Christ; to live or to die, my life is in His care and His keeping. Here I am, and here I come." Or to put your life with us in the fellowship of the church, would you make it now? While we sing this song, on the first note of the first stanza, "Here I come, here I am," while we stand and while we sing.